Indie-pop band Narda of the early 2000s returns with new single and projects

Published October 18, 2021, 1:18 PM

by Noel Pabalate

They have reinvented themselves through online tech

In this day and age where access to online technology is quite easy for most artists, they no longer have any excuse not to share their creativity. Take the case of Narda, the Filipino indie band from the 2000s, whose members, even though living in different parts of the world while working in different professions, have regrouped virtually to reinvent themselves into a file-swapping studio band—all in pursuit of their love for music.

Through frequent Zoom sessions in 2020, the NU107 2003 Raw Award recipient was able to digitally remaster its 50-plus song catalog under Island Records Philippines (IRP), including previously unreleased demos and remixes. Also the 2020 lockdown made them create a politically charged punk song “Juskopo,” which was written by the band’s vocalist Katwo Puertollano who is currently based in Manhattan.

The new eight-member line: New York-based Katwo Puertollano on vocals; Ryan Villena on drums; Canada-based JV Javier on guitars; Wincy Ong on bass; California-based Ed Ibarra on guitars; Nico Africa on guitars; Jep Cruz on synths; Tani Santos on guitars

“The band is back again after 15 years, and we have a lot of releases and projects in the pipeline,” says Ryan Villena, drummer, chief songwriter, and founder of the indie band who also now works as an educator at Inspire Sports Academy.

The band is now composed of eight members: Katwo Puertollano on vocals, Ryan Villena on drums, Wincy Ong on bass, Jep Cruz on synthesizers, and Tani Santos, Ed Ibarra, JV Javier, and Nico Africa on guitars.

According to Nico, although they haven’t seen each other in person for years, they’ve been setting up meetings and swapping audio files online. “We’ve all grown as musicians and the sound that we have now is truly exciting,” he muses.

The eight-musician line-up owes to technology like Zoom, Google Drive,, and Garageband how they have accomplished something even though they are physically miles apart. “It’s now easier for us to share each other’s musical ideas, compared to our early days, when the technology for these things wasn’t quite there yet,” says synth player Jep, who is also a lawyer by day.

Their online teamwork also recently gave birth to a new a hugot love song written by bassist Wincy Ong entitled “Ang Buhay T’wing Wala Ka,” which brings back their earlier sound—the strummy, nostalgia-tinged, dream pop music.

The track, which marries the chord progressions of ‘70s Manila Sound with the gritty textures of shoegaze bands, is their latest single under IRP. “It’s the most dream-pop song Narda has ever made. This song captures longing and isolation in the catchiest, sweetest, and most Tagalog way possible,” wrote Katwo in her Instagram post.

Enzo Valdez, the managing director at Universal Music Group’s IRP said that they are all excited to release the new material and that the company is proud to have Narda in their roster of all Filipino artists.

To promote the latest single, Narda partnered with Brutalist Pilipinas, a non-profit Instagram collective that aims to curate and preserve iconic Brutalist buildings in the country. This coming November, they will release a music video/mini-documentary that will show archival photos of works by Roberto Novenario, Antonio Mercado, Froilan Hong, and National Artist Leandro Locsin as the band’s new line-up is performing.

“There could be no perfect partnership that I could think of,” beams guitarist JV, who works as an architect in eastern Canada and at the same time an advocate of historic preservation in the Philippines. “Narda is a band that’s heavy on Pinoy nostalgia and we all grew up in a time when all these beautiful buildings were constructed. It’s a good feeling, that in a small way, we’re able to contribute to this movement,” he adds.

Narda during the early 2000s

Narda has also re-recorded tracks in their critically acclaimed garage-rock album “Discotillion” for a vinyl release under Backspace Records to celebrate its 15th anniversary. “Expect a new sound when the vinyl release comes out. We will bring something fresh and indescribable to the old songs. Kakaiba siya (It’s different),” assures Tani.

As of writing, the Ryan Villena-produced tracks, which include their chart-topping single “Molotov” in 2006, and previously unreleased songs are being engineered by Ely Buendia’s Crow’s Nest mastering facility.

With the given pandemic situation, California-based guitarist Ed was surprised with the output they’ve come up with. “But we’ve always been that kind of band,” he adds. “We find ways to continue making music that we love.”